By Nikos Varlas/ firstname.lastname@example.org
Two weeks are left in order for the regular season to be completed and things are more than clear. We already know 13 from the 16 teams that will continue in the second phase of the competition, the expanded 14 weeks long Top16 and only three tickets are still open. In Group B everything is already decided, as Elan Chalon and Prokom don’t even have mathematical chances for qualification.
So, it’s obvious that the battle of the three last open spots overshadows everything else, even the games that will decide the final standings of each group! Six games will be played on Thursday and six on Friday in a perfect balanced gameday.
Panathinaikos hosts Fenerbahce in a very important game, not only because the Turks still need a win in order to qualify, but also because two former Greens return to their old home. Romain Sato spend two season in Athens – and won the Euroleague in Barcelona’s Final Four – and maybe someday he will be forgotten by Panathinaikos’ fans, but that will never happen to Mike Batiste!
The American forward/ center returns to the gym where he spend nine season in front of a crowd that loves him. Batiste won everything with the Greens (8 Greek championships, 3 Euroleagues), even wrote a… book about his experience with the team and his close friends call him “Michalis”, not Micheal, and celebrate with him his name day, as it’s customary in Greece!
It will be one of the most emotional returns in the recent Euroleague history and Panathinaikos has prepared a special celebration for him. Yes, a game will also be held at OAKA. Panathinaikos have already qualified and Fener is still searching for its identity. The team of coach Panigiani haven’t qualified yet, but if you see the standings and the schedule, that seems to be only a formality. However, the Greeks want revenge after getting beat (73-64) in Istanbul.
HONORABLE MENTION: There are many games with no real meaning for the final standings, but the encounter between Anadolu Efes and Caja Laboral is the exact opposite. Still, the team of coach Mahmuti is better, plays at home and Caja will also have on its mind the game in Milan, hoping for a Zalgiris‘ win! If the team of coach Scariolo beats Zalgiris and also Efes wins, then the Italian will qualify to Top16. But if Zalgiris prevails, then Caja needs just one home win next win against Cedevita in order to qualify and a defeat of EA7 Milano at Piraeus by Olympiacos.
Do or die: EA7 Milano – Zalgiris, Lietuvos Rytas – Brose Baskets
We had to chose two games this week and it’s obvious why that happened. After losing the game last week in Vitoria, EA7 Milano has one more chance to get closer to the Top16 by beating at home Zalgiris Kaunas. The Italians need a big win, specially after losing at home by Sassari for Legabasket. The good news for them are that in the first game at Kaunas they lost but five points (92-87) and they proved to be an equal match for Zalgiris. The bad news? Zalgiris is usually winning this week and after being beaten by Olympiacos at home, has a motive to react. If the Lithuanians prevail at Milan, then the favorite for the Top16 qualification will be Caja or…. Cedevita. Who knows?
The situation is similar in the game between Lietuvos Rytas of 1-7 record and Brose Baskets. The Lithuanians still have hope, if they win the game with more than 6 points in order to cover the difference from the first game. Then they will need a win in Turkey against Besiktas… The result in Vilnius will be crucial for the Top16 qualification in combination with the outcome of Partizan vs Barcelona.
Under the microscope: Maccabi Tel Aviv
David Blatt’s Maccabi didn’t sweat in order to qualify and hosts Prokom, which is already disqualified. However, there is a special interest for the reaction of the host team on the court after the Guy Pnini situation, an affair with much more extensions than sports.
The question: Unbeaten Barcelona
Only one team is left unbeaten in this season’s Euroleague. Barcelona has a 8-0 record and the question is very simple. Partizan needs the win against the Catalans in order to stay on qualification course. To be exact if Partizan beats Barcelona and Lietuvos prevails over Brose Baskets, then the Serbians should be getting ready for the Top16, despite their bad start and their difficulties.
If Partizan and Brose Baskets win, then everything will be decided next week in the game between them. So, will Barcelona stay unbeaten without injured Erazem Lorbek, or the young guns of Partizan will achieve a miracle?
Numbers that count!
- Cedevita has the worst defense in Euroleague as its opponents are scoring 83,5 ppg. Of course the epic game against Zalgiris that ended 108-106 after the second overtime has a lot to do with this number.
- Mirza Begic of Real Madrid needs one more block in order to enter the all time top ten.
- Cantu never lost at home to Real Madrid! Their last game was back in 1991 and it was the win that gave Cantu the Korac Cup.
- Khimki is the most creative team in Euroleague with 18.9 asp.
- Blake Schilb in the player spending the most time on the court in Euroleague, having almost 34 mpg.
- Not only Siena has five wins in a row, but also the best offense of the league (86 ppg) and the most made three pointers (97).